For six weeks this summer, I took a free mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) class that my university’s counseling and psychological services offers each semester. We talked about and practiced some breathing techniques, mindful eating, mindful walking, metaphors, yoga, and ways to slow down life in general.
As students, we are busy bees. Multitasking is a way of life. We have to become professionals on social media, be engaged and involved on campus, volunteer, make friends (keep them), intern, write papers, hold a job, raise kids (in some cases), date, remember we have a family, study, read, etc., etc., etc. … all while trying to figure out who we are and what we want out of life. It gets busy, and sometimes, I’ve wanted to give up completely.
I don’t mean to bring the mood down (since I talk about mental health regularly), but many students die by suicide every year, including my friend Nathan on the fourth of July. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, “Available data suggests that suicide occurs at a rate between 6.5 and 7.5 per 100,000 among college students . . . Regarding suicidal thoughts, 15 percent of graduate and 18 percent of undergraduate students have seriously considered attempting suicide in their lifetimes. Between 40 and 50 percent of these same students report multiple episodes of serious suicidal thoughts.”
Those are scary numbers. It’s probably normal for a student to want to throw in the towel on life at least once during university. However, it shouldn’t be normal, but it should not also be shamed or hidden. It should be talked about, and there should be ways to counteract it.
That’s probably why my campus counseling and psychological services wanted this MBSR class. It teaches students small and simple ways to reduce stress and to be mindful. It shows us that stress shouldn’t dominate our time at university. We can’t all go somewhere beautiful when we’re stressed. Not all of the techniques we’ve discussed works for me, but they might work for someone else. Maybe they would have helped Nathan. Maybe not.
I’ve been trained in how to dissuade someone who is considering suicide, and one of the first things I learned was to allow time to work. Sometimes, taking a moment, an hour, a day, etc. to think about why that dying is seemingly the only option gives the person in crisis time to relax and rethink their decisions. Trust me. I know.
Being mindful isn’t just for people who think they need it. It’s for everyone. I’m going through one of the best years in my life, and being mindful is only helping me enjoy it more. And I know that when times get tough, mindfulness will be there to help me get through them.
Regardless of your situation, mindfulness can probably help. Stress is manageable. Taking time to step back from the big picture and look at and appreciate something small might be the best way to enjoy life. Be mindful.
“May you be well. May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May no harm come to you. May no difficulties come your way. May no problems come to you. May you always meet with success.
May you also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.
May you be well.”
Loving Kindness statements adapted from this exercise.